Camden Jurgensen thought he had Derby pinned.
From about midfield, the Maize quarterback took a step back on fourth down and launched a 50-yard punt that trickled inside the 1 yard-line. The Panthers would have to go 99 yards, 2 feet and 11 inches.
And they did on one play.
Junior quarterback Lem Wash took the snap 5 yards deep in the end zone with senior running back Tre Washington behind him. Wash took off to his right for a speed option play, the same one that gave Maize nightmares last season.
It did again Friday as Wash put his foot in the turf and watched the Maize defender overpursue. Wash fired through the safety dropping into the box to contain the damage. He went untouched 99 yards.
Derby beat Maize 55-7 in what was expected to be among the best games in all of Kansas in 2019. At halftime, Derby had 405 yards of offense; Maize had 14.
It was a haunting night south of Wichita for the rest of Kansas, but it started pregame.
The Panthers went through their regular warmup, dressed in green for senior night, ready to honor another class of players who helped keep Derby on top of the Kansas high school football world.
When the players retreated to the locker room, they found something they were seeking for more than 10 years, coach Brandon Clark said.
A new black uniform was in every locker. Black jersey. Black pants. Green helmet. Senior receiver Cavion Walker said he knew something was up when he was walking into the locker room.
“I was one of the last ones to walk in, and I heard them yelling from outside,” Walker said. “When I saw one, I melted. It was like a Christmas present.”
Clark said the players raised money for the uniforms in the summer.
“You should have seen their faces in the locker room,” Clark said.
Throughout the game, the speakers blared Halloween-themed music as the Panthers poured it on against one of the few remaining undefeated teams in Kansas.
The Derby offense was almost perfect. The Panthers failed to score on their first drive. After that, they crossed the goal line on every possession until there was a running clock early in the third quarter.
Walker had four touchdown passes in the first half. Wash only attempted eight passes in the first two quarters and completed just five. They epitomized Derby’s third undefeated regular season in the past four seasons.
Walker has battled through injuries his entire Derby football career. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, he has the size to be a Division I receiver and the skill that screams he should be. Yet he one Division I offer to Princeton.
Walker said he has been waiting on Friday to come for years.
“I’m kind of surprised, but I think I knew I had it in me,” he said. “This definitely adds to my highlight reel. Hopefully we will see what happens.”
The one throwing him the passes walked a unique path of his own, too. Three weeks ago, Wash was just another skill player on the Derby offense and the backup quarterback to senior Grant Adler, a three-year starter.
After an injury in practice to Adler, Wash became the guy. Since taking over, he is 3-0 and hasn’t scored fewer than 54 points in any game, including against the then-No. 1 seed in Class 5A West, Maize.
He finished 6-of-9 passing for 142 yards and four touchdowns. He had 136 rushing yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns, including the 99-yarder to open the scoring.
Last year, it was Hunter Igo who came in for Adler in Week 4. Igo became the rallying point behind the Panthers’ undefeated championship-winning season. In 2019, it seems to be Wash. All season, Clark said he has told people he might have the best two quarterbacks in Kansas but only one can take the snaps.
Although Wash was spectacular, his performance outlined something scarier: It doesn’t matter who plays for Derby; it is a machine that operates as reliably as time.
Washington, the one who watched it all happen from the backfield, said it would be stupid to think the Panthers would take a step back when the one they call “Lem” stepped in.
“They don’t know about Earnest,” Washington said.
Derby is the No. 1 seed in Class 6A West for the third time in four years. The Panthers are on a track toward another state championship, which would make them the biggest 6A dynasty in Kansas since Hutchinson in the mid-2000s.
After the game, Clark told his team, “Enjoy this.”
“But stay hungry because everyone is 0-0 at the start of next week,” Clark said.